Gibson v. Wood

Decision Date28 May 2008
Docket NumberCivil Action No. 3-06-CV-1265JC.
Citation563 F.Supp.2d 341
PartiesJoseph GIBSON, III, Plaintiff, v. James WOOD, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Connecticut

John R. Williams, Joseph M. Merly, Williams & Pattis, Robert A. Serafinowicz, John R. Williams & Associates, New Haven, CT, for Plaintiff.

Lynn D. Wittenbrink, Attorney General's Office, Hartford, CT, for Defendant.

RULING RE: DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NO. 53)

JANET C. HALL, District Judge.

Plaintiff, Joseph Gibson, III, brings this action claiming violation of his rights under the Fourteenth and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution pursuant to 42 U.S.C. sections 1983 and 1988. See Complaint at 4 (Doc. No. 1). Gibson's claims arise from injuries he sustained when he was allegedly attacked by members of the Latin Kings gang when reporting to his parole officer, Defendant James Wood. Wood moves the court to enter summary judgment on all of Gibson's claims.

I. FACTS1

Gibson was incarcerated from 1991 through December 15, 1999. During his incarceration, he claims that he was coerced by corrections officials to infiltrate the Latin Kings gang and then act as a confidential informant for those officials. On September 15, 1999, Gibson was assaulted in the prison. He believes that he was assaulted by "hit men" for the Latin Kings. He asserts that ever since that time the Latin Kings have had a "hit out on his life." Depo. of Gibson ("Gibson Depo.") at 47, Ex. A to Def.'s 56(a)(1) Stat., Att. 3 (Doc. No. 53). Gibson brought a lawsuit against two correctional officers regarding this claim. A trial was held on March 21, 2005. The case ended in a mistrial. Gibson's claim to have been an infiltrator and informant against the Latin Kings was publicized by the news media in Connecticut and elsewhere at the time of the trial.

Gibson was re-incarcerated in October of 2001, and released in April 2004. Starting on May 6, 2004, Gibson's parole was supervised by Wood in Meriden, Connecticut. Wood is a Parole Officer for the State of Connecticut, a position he has held for the last eighteen years. Gibson reported to Wood weekly or bi-weekly, and was subject to random uranalysis. Gibson admits that he was "on and off cocaine" while he was released between 1999 and 2001.

In December 2004, Gibson asserts that he told a female staff member at the parole office in Meriden that he was concerned for his safety, but Wood was not present at that time. Later that month, or in January of 2005, Gibson claims that he "mention[ed]" the name of a man to Wood who he believed was a member of the Latin Kings and whom Gibson had seen at the Meriden Alternative Incarceration Center ("AIC"). According to Gibson, Wood looked up that individual's information and told Gibson not to "worry about him" because he was "discharging pretty soon." Wood Depo. at 78.

On March 24, 2005, Gibson failed to report to Wood as scheduled and did not call to explain why. Wood called Gibson's residence that night and told his father to have Gibson call him. Gibson has testified that he did not "have to" report that day because he had communicated to his case manager, not Wood, at the Parole Office that he was busy with a lawsuit he was prosecuting, and she told him not to "worry about it". Gibson Depo. at 109. Gibson and Wood spoke on March 25, 2005, at which point Gibson claims that Wood told him, "She's not your parole officer; I am." Id. at 108. During that call, Gibson told Wood that he had missed his reporting appointment because he was in a trial and he thought everyone was aware of it.2 See Affidavit of Wood ("Wood Aff.") at ¶ 35, Ex. H to Pl.'s 56(a)(1) Stat. Wood had heard nothing of Gibson's trial in the media. He told Gibson that, even if he was involved in a court proceeding, he was not relieved of his reporting obligations or his required substance abuse treatment. Gibson told Wood that he had received a death threat over the phone that he believed was related to his trial, but that he did not know who had threatened him. Wood claims that he actually informed Gibson that he had received two death threats. See Wood depo. at 84. Gibson told Wood to call the police if he had been threatened. At that time, Wood was "certain" that Gibson had returned to using drugs and was doing "whatever he could to avoid reporting to [him] and having a drug test." Wood. Aff. at ¶ 39. During this call, Wood instructed Gibson to report to him on March 31, 2005.

Sometime during the next week, Gibson's attorney called Wood to inform him that Gibson was fearful about reporting to Wood due to the publicity surrounding his lawsuit. Wood told Gibson's attorney that Gibson had not told him at any point that Gibson would be involved in this lawsuit. Wood further told him that the only thing he could do with regards to Gibson's safety was to put him in Protective Custody in a prison setting, but that otherwise Gibson would need to call the police if he felt threatened. He also told Gibson's attorney that he believed Gibson was using drugs again and needed to be tested.

On March 31, 2005, Gibson did not report as directed to Wood. Wood received a call from law enforcement that Gibson claimed to have been stabbed. Gibson claims that on that day he drove to the Meriden AIC to report as required. See Gibson depo. at 123. As soon as he got out of his car, three masked individuals wearing hoods surrounded him. See id. at 123-5. He claims that one put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger, but the gun did not work due to a "back fire." Id. at 123. He claims a second man pulled a knife and stabbed him in the chest. See id. at 127. He claims the men then drove away and Gibson called 911 from his cell phone. Id. at 128. The police arrived, and he was put into an ambulance and driven to Yale New Haven Hospital where he was treated and released after five or six days. See id. at 137-141.

When asked in his deposition whether he thought that Wood had arranged for members of the Latin Kings to assault him outside of the Meriden AIC, Gibson testified

I don't know. I don't know. I don't think so. I don't know if somebody in the Department of Corrections did. I don't know. You know, I'm dealing— like I said before, I don't know. Deefendorfer, the gang intelligence officer, we just had sued him. I seen [sic] him lie on the witness stand. What else are they capable of? The warden lied on the witness stand. You know, what are they capable of? I don't know if it was them. Mr. Woods works for the Department of Correction. I don't know. I have no proof of it, let's put it that way.

Gibson Depo. at 130. At another point in his deposition, when asked if "Mr. Wood somehow communicated to representatives of the Latin Kings gang that you were going to be coming," Gibson responded "Well, to be honest with you, it's not my contention." Gibson Depo. at 96-7. He stated that, "the Meriden detectives themselves and [his] attorney" suggested to him that he might have been set up, based on the fact that Wood was "the only one who knew that [Gibson] [was] coming that night other than [his] family and [his] attorneys." Id. at 97. When asked if he had anything to support such an allegation, Gibson responded that he had questioned Wood's integrity when he "told Mr. Wood one time that I knew of a Hispanic male who was selling cocaine. And Mr. Wood neglected to actually even pursue it, or even acknowledge it." Id. at 98.

On April 13, 2005, Gibson reported to Wood and told him that he had been using cocaine. Wood made him an appointment at a substance abuse treatment center for April 18, 2005, and told him to attend the appointment. The next day, Gibson was arrested by New Haven narcotic enforcement officers for criminal trespass in an area where narcotics are frequently bought and sold. Gibson told the officers that he was there to purchase cocaine, but that the residents of the area would not sell it to him because they thought he was an undercover law enforcement agent. Based on this arrest, the Board of Parole violated Gibson's parole, and he was reincarcerated. Wood did not supervise Gibson after this time.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

In a motion for summary judgement, the burden is on the moving party to establish that there are no genuine issues of material fact in dispute and that it is entitled to judgement as a matter of law. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 256, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); White v. ABCO Engineering Corp., 221 F.3d 293, 300 (2d Cir.2000). Once the moving party has met its burden, the nonmoving party must "set forth specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial," Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505, and present such evidence as would allow a jury to find in his favor in order to defeat the motion. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir.2000).

In assessing the record, the trial court must resolve all ambiguities and draw all inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgement is sought. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255, 106 S.Ct. 2505; Graham, 230 F.3d at 38. "This remedy that precludes a trial is properly granted only when no rational finder of fact could find in favor of the non-moving party." Carlton v. Mystic Transp., Inc., 202 F.3d 129, 134 (2d Cir.2000). "When reasonable persons, applying the proper legal standards, could differ in their responses to the question" raised on the basis of the evidence presented, the question must be left to the jury. Sologub v. City of New York, 202 F.3d 175, 178 (2d Cir.2000).

III. DISCUSSION
A. Due Process Claim

The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment provides that, "[n]o State shall ... deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." U.S. CONST. AM. XIV. Gibson claims that, by "intentionally or recklessly [causing] members of the Latin Kings gang to learn that the plaintiff would be available at his office to be killed on the evening of ...

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